Pabay Mor, in Loch Roag, was one of my first Island 'Consolation Prizes'. But it would be hard to find a better one. It was the year 2000, and I had tried to get out to the Flannans with Seatrek. But they had more lucrative business opportunities going on, and so my 'penciled in' Flannan trip was cancelled. But they did offer to drop myself, two friends, and a Baile-na-Cille dog off on the island of Pabay Mor.
|Briomanish Village - Pabay Mor|
Pabay was cleared of its people around 1820. It was briefly re-settled in 1840, but was cleared again in 1849. The village consists of about seven old houses and a kiln. Four of the houses still have roofs and are occasionally occupied.
In the distance in the next photo you can see the township of Valtos on mainland Lewis. The Valtos crofters have the right to graze their sheep on Pabay.
Pabay was a MacLeod island until 1800, and prior to that the Pabay MacLeods held a lot of territory in the Uig area. The following abridged excerpt from chapter 17 of book 2 tells how the Pabay Macleods lost control of their land on mainland Lewis.
In the fifteenth century the sons of MacLeod of Pabay Mor murdered the family of John Roy Macaulay, following a dispute over the ownership of a cow. Thirteen-year-old John Roy was away at the time, living with his foster-father in Mealista, on the west coast of Lewis. MacLeod of Lewis, not happy with the behavior of the Pabay MacLeods, ordered that in recompense they take young John Roy into their custody with a promise to keep him safe.
But John Roy's period of safekeeping did not last long. On a snowy November day the MacLeods took him on a hunting trip, and at Kenneth’s hut (NB 112 164), an old shelter near Kinresort, he was tied to rocks in the snow and left to the elements.
|The ruin of Kenneth's Hut|
John Roy’s foster-father had a premonition something was amiss. He hiked to Kenneth’s hut and found the near-dead boy. After resuscitating him with some warm milk, he carried him over seven miles of hills and bog to Mealista. Several years later John Roy would have his revenge when he pursued the eldest son of MacLeod to the shores of Uig Bay, killing him just before he could reach the sanctuary of St Christopher’s chapel. MacLeod of Lewis, in compensation for all John Roy had suffered, granted him some of the lands of Uig that belonged to the Pabay MacLeods.
The most historical structure on Pabay is Teampall Pheadair, St Peter's Chapel. It dates to at least the 1500s, and lies above a beautiful white-sand beach a half-mile north of the village.
|St Peter's Church and beach|
As you can see in the next photo there's not much left of St Peter's. A note on the CANMORE page for the church suggests it may have been bombarded by canon fire during the Scottish Crown's campaign against the MacLeods of Lewis in 1506.
|What's left of St Peter's|
At the north end of Pabay you will find a giant lobster pond. Lobsters caught at sea in creels were held here until market prices in England merited shipping them south.
|Lobster Pond and a visitor from Bailenacille|
I have been fortunate to have spent many hours on Pabay in 2000, and again during a visit in 2011. I look forward to possibly returning again during our Hjalmar Bjorge cruise this May.